SAN MARCOS — Samahna Stefanich of San Marcos said she knew the day her son, Zachary Olea, enlisted into the U.S. Army, there would be sacrifices to make. Afterall, she said, her husband was a member of the elite SEAL Team Six for eight years, making the family accustomed to the challenges of the military.
Still, the holidays do not get easier, especially when Zachary is away, Samahna Stefanich said.
“Each year I’ve known that his leave requests may not be approved, especially during the holidays,” said Samahna Stefanich, who has lived in San Marcos since 2005. “ Yet in my heart, I’m always hoping that he will be able to come home. I remind myself that my son is a soldier, and nothing is promised and nothing can be expected right now. I have to find gratitude for what we do have: A love and connection that reaches all around the globe.”
With that gratitude in mind, Samahna Stefanich went to social media to ask the public for help in sending her son a bit of California cheer.
Samahna Stefanich made a request on Facebook last week, asking the public to consider contributing to a care package that will be sent to Zachary, who is currently stationed at Ft. Drum, New York. She asked that letters or cards be sent to her home in San Marcos so that she can then send them on to Zachary.
“While I was making a list of items to pack in his Christmas care package, I thought, maybe it would lift his spirits if he got letters or cards from home,” Samahna Stefanich said. “Maybe it would help remind him that he hasn’t been forgotten, and that home is still here, waiting for him. Maybe some love from neighbors would remind him that he matters to us and we appreciate him and his hard work and sacrifice. I love our community and I know he does too.”
Zachary, who is now 20 years old, grew up in San Marcos, Samahna Stefanich said. Zachary graduated from San Marcos High School in 2017, earning the Student of the Year Award for criminal justice, before deciding he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlist in the military.
Mark Stefanich, Zachary’s father, said his son’s place in the military has brought him joy.
“Having my son join the Army brings me great pride,” Mark Stefanich said. “I think his decision to join the Army was an excellent choice, as it is helping him achieve the goals he has set out for himself as well as serving our country.”
Mark Stefanich said having served in the military himself he understands the challenges of being away from loved ones during the holiday season.
“From my time in the military, I know that holidays away from home are part of the deal and we draw strength from those stationed or deployed along with us,” Mark Stefanich said. “I know he’s surrounded by brothers. I’ll miss Zach at home this year, but he will always be in our hearts. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Samahna Stefanich said she’s received much support from the public since creating her Facebook post last week and hopes to receive more letters to send to Zachary. The support also serves as a reminder that she and her military family are not alone.
“Knowing there are people out there willing to take the time to write my son a card, short letter or note reminds me that we aren’t alone in this,” Samahna Stefanich said. “It reminds me that as a community we can come together to help each other in tough times. I’m incredibly grateful.”
As Samahna Stefanich prepares for her first Christmas away from Zachary, she said she will be praying for all the service members and their safe return home.
“There are many sons, daughters, parents, family that never come home, so I pray for them all to come home,” Samahna Stefanich said. “I’ll pray (Zachary) comes home safely and soon too, but we will decorate and find joy and gratitude.”
Anyone who would like to send a letter or gift for the care package can mail it to SPC. Zachary Olea at 725 Kellogg St., San Marcos, CA 92078. Samahna Stefanich said she plans to send the care package to her son by Dec. 16.